Resume-Writing Strategies from a Career Coach’s Tool Kit

Here’s how resume writers transform ordinary resumes into attention-grabbing documents.

Ever wonder how career coaches and resume writers transform ordinary resumes into attention-grabbing documents? As career professionals, we use a variety of strategies to position job seekers and add the much-needed “punch” to their resumes.

Address employer needs; speak their language.

Employers look for solutions, not people. When a company publicizes an opening, it is advertising a need: a gap within its system. In order to win the job, a candidate’s resume must therefore demonstrate how his or her background serves as the perfect solution for this need. Not realizing this, many executives focus too much on trivial details and neglect the “real beef” that facilitates the decision-making process.

Example: An e-commerce giant advertised the position of an online affiliate marketing manager. Based on initial research, it appeared that the company wanted someone who could not only grow its program (revenues and publisher count) but also increase publisher retention rates. The following is a partial executive summary that attempts to address these two needs:

Award-winning affiliate marketing manager who has grown and managed affiliate programs for Fortune 500 E-commerce companies. Despite resource constraints, grew affiliate program from 1,200 publishers to over 15,000 within just two years. (Top competitor’s program consisted of only 7,000 affiliates.) Leveraged consistent follow up, one-on-one relationships, and publisher-focused programs to catapult affiliate revenues $94 million; outperformed previous manager’s performance by 180%. Turned around failing program and increased retention from 40% to record 98%.

In addition to addressing your executive summary, using the right mix of keywords is critical. Most companies use electronic storage and retrieval systems to manage the large volume of resumes they receive every day. Whenever an opening arises, HR professionals use keywords to search through their database. Only resumes with matching keywords will show up during these searches.

Focus on accomplishments.

Most resumes use statements like, “Responsible for sales and marketing.” What does this tell the employer? Nothing. Hundreds of resumes on the employer’s desk would be saying the same thing.

How about this: “Generate sales in excess of $500,000 every month by targeting a client base of 1,900 accounts.”

Even better: “Propelled market share 12% by driving more than $500,000 in sales every month. Achieved results by delivering powerful presentations and influencing challenging decision makers. Ranked #1 from sales force of 2,000 employees nationwide. Won Top Salesman of the Year award for capturing 80% of competitor’s accounts.

Highlight benefits, not features.

If car manufacturer XYZ says, “Our car is red” — that is a feature. When the same car manufacturer says, “Our cutting-edge car will deliver record-breaking 80 mpg and save you at least $350 at the pump every month” — that is a benefit. Your resume, too, must use similar language, especially to showcase your work at past employers. In the above example, “Responsible for sales and marketing” is a feature but “Propelled market share 12%” and “Captured 80% of competitor’s accounts” would be benefits.

Format effectively.

An effectively formatted, well-organized resume can reduce reading time dramatically. Imagine how pleased the hiring manager would be to review a resume that highlights key points and saves precious points.

Stay focused.

The modern workforce is multiskilled and cross-functional in the truest sense of those terms. Lean organizational structures have necessitated cross-training and have created a new breed of workers who can adapt to any roles very quickly. Even if you are qualified for multiple positions, don’t try to create one resume for every job on earth. Staying focused is the key.